Chomel, a cat, stars in an inspirational story about the importance of cherishing family members

Yes, Chomel, a cat, is the lead character in a film by filmmaker Jason Chong who is the man behind Malaysian Film Festival 29 winner Adiwiraku. Reading between the lines I sense that this film was motivated by the Covid pandemic. As we all know, it was and remains a time when people work at home in isolation allowing more time with family. Family includes companion animals.

Chomel a film starring a tabby-and-white cat about family life
Chomel a film starring a tabby-and-white cat about family life. Photo: New Straits Times
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The film views family life through the eyes of a domestic cat. The filmmakers worked in Kuala Lumpur. They had to comply with rules put in place to limit the spread of Covid such as the Movement Control Order (MCO). In addition, the filmmakers had to strictly adhere to what is called “standard operating procedures” (SOP). No doubt these are rules put in place to ensure that people making films and doing other workplace activities minimise the spread of the disease.

Jason Chong who won Best Original Story for Adiwiraku at the festival said that Chomel was the first time that he has directed a cat and a cat has been the hero of the story.

He said that it’s a story about family values as seen through the eyes of the family cat. The film was aired on June 24. It has a duration of 90 minutes. It’s being screened on Astro First. It’ll be interesting to see Chong’s interpretation on how cats think.

Chong wants the film to help people deal with the restrictions of Covid. He said that it carries a lesson of spending quality time with family “and appreciating what we all have”.

The vice president of Astro Show & Nusantra, Raja Jastina Raja Arshad, said that Chomel was a motivational and inspirational story. He believes that having a cat as the hero is a beautiful idea. A lot of people have companion animals living with them and it’s an interesting idea to view family life through the eyes of a domestic cat who, by the way, appears to be a grey tabby-and-white. How did they select Chomel, I wonder?

The film also stars Zahiril Adzim who was awarded the most promising actor at the Malaysian Film Festival 22. The cast also includes Airiezara Yasmin, Yuyun Hikmah, Aniq Suhair, Azizah Mahzan, Aziz M Osman, Adibah Noor, Douglas Lim, Gavin Yap and Era radio announcer Zahier Yusoff.

The film tells the story of Mimi who becomes lonely after the death of her mother. She becomes withdrawn but finds her newfound companion, Chomel, is a constant companion. Her father has to surrender custody of his two daughters to his mother-in-law. He refuses to do so.

It’s unusual for a non-animated film to feature a domestic cat as its star. I don’t know what kind of agonies the director went through to get Chomel to do what he should do but they managed using tricks and a knowledge of feline behaviour. You can always get cats to do things you want them to do in a subtle and clever way which is far more effective than trying to use force of any kind. That always fails.

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